We’re going to play a little game of over/under with some big name college hoops stars that also happen to be NBA prospects. I’ll name a player then explain whether his draft stock is overrated, right where it should be, or underrated and why. A player’s draft stock will be based on where “experts” are projecting them to go.
Trae Young: Overrated
He is without a doubt the most exciting player in college basketball since Steph Curry and Jimmer Fredette, but that doesn’t mean he’s destined for success in the league. Just look at what happened to Jimmer after he was taken in the lottery. The numbers that Young was posting to start the year were absolutely ludicrous and unsustainable. Now that ample film of Trae exists, teams are figuring out how to keep him in check and not let him beat them. His points per game, assists, field goal percentage, and 3 point percentage have declined slowly throughout the season (but this was bound to happen to a degree with how hot he started). His team has also begun to struggle and lose some games they shouldn’t, which they did not do at the start of the season.
If Young could get lucky and grow another couple inches over the next year or 2 I would feel a lot better about him as an NBA player. He is a liability on defense for the most part and not insanely athletic. His court vision and mind for the game could be his saving grace in the league. Jimmer proved that ice cold shooting is not a guarantee for success, the question around Young is whether he has the quickness and craftiness to still get his shot with bigger, smarter, better, and more athletic defenders attempting to lock him up.
He is not Steph 2.0 and he is not going to be the face of a franchise. With that being said though he could be a quality guard in the league for a long time. He might not ever turn into a starting point guard in the NBA, but he should be able to find quality minutes on a team for his prime years at the very least. Young might end up serving as instant offense off the bench and the captain of the second unit, but that beats playing in China like Jimmer.
Marvin Bagley III: Right Where He Should Be
To me, Bagley looks like the best NBA prospect right now. With his height (6’11”) and incredible athletic ability, along with his steady shot that has shown range, he is NBA ready right now. He is averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists per game in a strong conference. He is also shooting it at 64% inside the 3 point line and 35% from behind it.
Throw Marvin Bagley III on any NBA team right now and he would be getting at least 20 minutes a game. Put him on a team like Phoenix or Dallas and he would be putting up 20 and 10 with ease. He is actually from Phoenix, so the Suns would make a great fit for him. They are a team that is needing an elite big to build around and he would fit the build. Look for Phoenix to do whatever they can to get the hometown kid. No matter where he goes though, Bagley will be in the league for a long time as a starter and make many all star games.
Luka Doncic: Overrated
Many scouts consider Doncic the best player in the draft. He may as well be a lock to go in the top 10, maybe even top 5 depending on who you ask.
The bust potential is huge here. Overseas prospects are always a risk just because they aren’t playing against other players at their talent level and age. Through 19 games this season with his club, Doncic is only shooting 30% behind the arc and averaging an unimpressive 14 points a game and 4 assists. He isn’t playing a ton of minutes, but for a potential number 1 pick his numbers have to improve.
The upside here in undeniable though. He still isn’t even 19, and he’s a 6’8″ ball handler with elite athleticism. The assist to turnover ratio is well over 2.0 and he’s shooting over 80% from the charity strike. There is a long list of pros and cons here, but Luka Doncic is far too much of a gamble to be a top pick this year in the draft.
DeAndre Ayton: Pretty Damn Overrated
DeAndre Ayton is a solid college center who will more than likely have a long NBA career. But is he worthy of the number 1 or 2 pick? I just don’t see it. Marvin Bagley and Mo Bamba both look like better options with more upside right now.
Ayton’s wingspan is an inch or 2 shorter than his height which is typically not a good sign for big men. What that does is marginally decrease his rebounding, blocking, and defensive potential/ability. Mohammed Bamba of Texas has a wingspan that is a full foot longer than Ayton. You read that right, a full foot. That gives Bamba around 5 or 6 more inches of length vertically to protect and finish around the rim.
The Arizona team that Ayton is a part of has underachieved tremendously so far this season. Their roster is loaded with talent around the star center and looked like a lock to be a top 10 team for at least the majority of the season. Their stint in the top 10 to start the year was short lived and the team has been outside the top 25 for a solid span of the season. Ayton could wind up a star or turn into just a role player, but regardless of how good of a player he turns out to be, he will not be the best big out of this class. Definitely a top 10 pick, not worth a top 3 pick.
Mohammed Bamba: Slightly Underrated
Mo Bamba is a freshman big like Marvin Bagley who is going to have NBA teams chomping at the bit trying to get a hold of him. He is without a doubt one of the top 2 bigs in this draft class. Most experts and analysts have Bamba going anywhere from 3 to 10, typically around 6.
Saying Bamba has a huge wingspan is an absolute understatement. To be specific its 8 feet but hey who’s counting. The potential with this kid is just endless. He could be KG, he could be Mutombo, he could be Hakeem, or even Embiid. He’s shown the ability to knock down the 3 ball and an impressive looking shot from a big man of his size. He is virtually unblockable from many angles with his height and wingspan. The tools he has at 19 are very impressive and the sky is the limit. Mo Bamba could turn into the face of a franchise if they develop him correctly.
Michael Porter Jr: Overrated
There isn’t a ton to say here about Porter Jr since he hasn’t even played a full game on the college level. He got pulled early in his first game with an injury and wound up having a very serious season ending procedure on the L3-L4 spinal discs.
Prior to the start of the season, Michael Porter Jr looked like the number one pick and it wasn’t even that close.
This injury is a tough pill to swallow for front offices though. Some players like Kyrie are able to come back and have outstanding, lengthy NBA careers, but not everyone. If I were the GM of a team I would stay away from Porter unless he fell outside of the top 10. There is too much other talent to risk a top pick on the injured Mizzou small forward.
Kevin Knox: Underrated
Due to Kentucky’s struggles so far this season, the team isn’t getting much love or attention. Thus resulting in Kevin Knox not getting the attention he deserves either.
The 18 year old freshman has flashed Melo like ability on offense and is ready to score right now in the league. He’s a big and strong forward with a good shot (35% from 3) that is capable of playing the 3 or the 4 at the next level. With the small ball evolution around the league he could potentially be a great fit at power forward for a team. He’s also going to go into the league half the age of some veterans and have plenty of time to develop into an all star caliber player. He isn’t as NBA ready as some other prospects in the lottery, but he has a ceiling that is as high as Uncle Snoop.
Miles Bridges: Slightly Underrated
Brides has to be the most athletic players in this class. After making the decision to return to school for his sophomore season, he has shown steady improvement in his game and thus improving his draft stock as well.
His shot form, maturity, and consistency all look better this season, as well as his free throws. He shot 68% at the line last season and has improved 89% this season which is one of the best in the country. Miles Bridges is the motor, leader, and heart of this team. When he goes, they go and he is their most valuable player. He recently hit a huge game winning 3 against Purdue (a top 5 team) showing he has the clutch gene.
This guy is no top 5 pick, but he is definitely worth a lottery pick. Look for him to go somewhere between 8 and 15 in the draft.
Jaren Jackson: Overrated
The 6’11” 243 pound center is only averaging 11 and a half points and 6 rebounds per game. Those numbers are incredibly low for a projected top 5 pick.
Jaren Jackson is not the best player on his team which is a bit of a red flag. The second red flag is that Jackson was invisible in Michigan State’s biggest game of the year against Purdue. Miles Bridges (not to be confused with Mikal) carried the team to a win with Jackson playing little minutes due to foul trouble.
Jackson does have the ability to stretch the floor with a solid 3 ball. He’s shot it at 44% this season and thus is much of the reason his draft stock is so high. This is a guy with a really high ceiling and also a pretty low floor at the same time. There is so much potential here, but the 18 year old is at least 2 or 3 years away from being ready to compete in the NBA.
Mikal Bridges: Overrated
Most scouts and mock drafts have the Villanova junior going early in the lottery. Bridges is not an elite player on offense (pretty solid though), but is known for his stellar defense. Competing in a weaker conference, and also not even being the best player on his team, I’m not sold on the potential 3 and D guy.
His 3 ball has steadily improved over his 3 seasons with Villanova, but the rest of his shooting percentages have not. His field goal percentage is down over 6% of what it was last season and his free throw percentage has dropped off even more than that. Is his defense enough for him to be a successful NBA player? Probably, but I would not bet on it. Mikal is not even the best defender in his class, and he is in a weaker conference that does not play many games against top quality players.
Mikal Bridges will be a let down for whatever team is dumb enough to take the gamble on selecting him early in the lottery.
Collin Sexton: Very Underrated
Sexton is a very interesting pick that has been a tad bit of a disappointment this season. He came into college looking the best incoming guard, but has gotten somewhat forgotten due to Trae Young’s massive success. He is a strong, athletic, 2 way point guard that could win a dunk contest in the league. I’m talking jump out the gym, bunnies in his feet, springs in his shoes. The man can flat out fly.
When he faced off against the other highly scouted point guard in Trae Young, he locked him up and lead his team to victory. He also outplayed Young in the process, but everyone still has Young over Sexton draft stock wise. Sexton reminds me of a right handed De’Aaron Fox with a little more muscle and better shot.
Theo Pinson: Most Underrated Player (by a mile)
Theo Pinson is the most slept on player in the country by a mile. This man is going to be a huge asset to whatever team he ends up on. He is a swiss army knife and has no weakness in his game except for the need to add a 3 ball.
The North Carolina guard/froward is a lockdown defender and with his 6’10” wingspan, he can guard 1-3 on the next level and even some 4’s. He’s currently averaging 9 points, 6 boards, and 5 dimes while shooting 45% from the floor. Over his years, he has increased tremendously in every single statistic except 3 point percentage. He is by no means a liability on offense with his ability to handle the ball and finish (especially in transition).
Pinson is effective on and off the ball, requires no shot attempts, and plays with a contagious energy and hustle that can take a team to the next level. He’s also made huge plays in big games and always guards the best player on the opposing team.
In 5-10 years we could very easily be looking back and saying Theo Pinson was the steal of the 2018 draft.
Luke Maye: Quite Underrated
Luke Maye definitely won’t be the most athletic player in the draft, but he might be the hardest working. He went from a walk on that got little to no game to being on the Wooden watch list.
This season, Maye has posted multiple 30 point and 15 rebound games. He carried North Carolina to a national championship last season and has improved his game tremendously every year. The last 3 seasons his field percentage has gone from 37%, to 48%, to 52% now. His 3 point percentage has gone from 28%, to 40%, to 46% and every single other stat follows the same pattern. He has improved leaps and bounds every single season which says a lot about him as a player and as a person.
Luke Maye reminds me of a young, stocky Kevin Love in Minnesota. He’s obviously nowhere the caliber of player Love is and probably never will be, but its an interesting comparison. Look for a team to snag him late in the second round if he does not return to school for his senior season.